Milford business owner brings community together for Ukraine

MILFORD — Weeks of watching images of devastation in Ukraine has Nina Ortiz has kicking her passion for helping others into high gear.

Ortiz, owner of Seaside Nutrition, is putting together a benefit event, Seaside Stands with Ukraine, for Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at her 50 Naugatuck Ave. location, home to smoothies, shakes, healthy teas and fitness classes.

“Things may not be easy here now, but when you watch what is happening over there — people leaving their homes, families separated, maybe forever — it puts everything in perspective,” Ortiz said. “Millions of people’s lives are being turned upside down. As a mom, a parent with the means to help, I had to do something.”

Seaside Stands with Ukraine will feature vendors, a silent auction, fitness classes, and plenty of Ortiz’s patented healthy drinks — with proceeds from the sales going to Save the Children, which is helping those families impacted by Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.

Ortiz began holding various fundraisers and collections since the start of the pandemic.

It started, according to Ortiz, by giving out donations of shakes and teas to front-line workers out her front window when most shops were shuttered in the opening months of the pandemic.

In the months since, Ortiz said she has held donation drives for Smilow Cancer Center, the Purple Pantry and various animal hospitals throughout the city.

Seaside Stands with Ukraine is different, Ortiz said, because she decided to turn what started as simply donating a portion of shake and tea sales into an event that would bring together dozens of businesses and donors.

“This has become a way to bring the whole community together to do something positive,” Ortiz said.

“During COVID, a lot of us local businesses have taken a hit, so seeing other businesses like mine all come together and do something good for someone else is amazing,” she added. “This is something I really wanted to do.”

The auction will feature gift cards, gift baskets and artwork. Among the donors to the silent auction are Hair to Inspire, Papa’s Pizza, Founder’s House, Bridge House Restaurant, Hair of the Dog, Roz Petalz Studio, Bohemian High, and Walk About Yoga.

She said she hoped to have as many as 20 donations when she conceived the benefit event. She said she surpassed that number quickly and is now eyeing 50 donations for the auction.

“This is really amazing,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz has had Seaside Nutrition for about three years. Her dive into small business ownership came after years as a personal trainer and manager at fitness locations such as Crunch Fitness and iLoveKickboxing. Her Milford success has allowed her to soon open a second location, Four Corners Nutrition, on Federal Road in Brookfield.

“My focus is on being healthy and happy, and I always work to bring that to all the people that come here,” Ortiz said. “Helping people has always been a passion of mine.”